Last week we moved back home after five months of construction and living in a rental. We had so much to unpack, but I was also anxious to get my Christmas stuff up.
I was unloading boxes and unwrapping ornaments while simultaneously trying to read three days worth of unread email; not to mention that my girls seemed to need something every five minutes - food, attention, help, food…
I was carrying my phone around in my pocket because I was hoping to make a quick call to my parents, but first I needed to unwrap one more ornament, put this pan away, finish my grocery list and take this bag to the garbage…
In the midst of all of this, I started to laugh because I realized I was literally creating chaos.
No, I was already in chaos.
But chaos was not given to me, chaos did not happen - I had created it. I was choosing to be in chaos. I was choosing to do all these things simultaneously; I was choosing to feel this way.
So I walked around in circles for awhile, mulled over my choices and then decided to ditch it all.
It was Sunday and Todd was home, so I decided to head to yoga class.
Crazy, right? But what I needed most in this chaos was to get rid of this chaos.
After 75 minutes of doing something I love, I returned home to my lists, the computer, the boxes, and the holiday decorations. But it looked different, and even more important, it felt different.
I was ready to get going again, but this time I was excited to have the girls help me (instead of shooing them away so I could do it MY way….that's my chaos response).
I hibernated my computer, cautiously stepped around boxes, and focused on decorating my little tree.
I connected to what I was doing.
This is always an option. I can choose what to do, how to feel, and how to respond regardless of what is happening around me.
Dropping everything and going to a yoga class isn't always an option, but I could sit down and relax, take a breath, get a coffee, put on a good song, and then begin again.
I could stop the self-created chaos by choosing to not participate.
I talk with parents daily, personally and professionally, so I know many of you are reading this and rolling your eyes….there is no way you could stop, you don't have choices, you have to get everything done, you have to do it all, and you have to go to the cookie exchange…
But do you? I know it feels like it, I feel that way sometimes, too.
But the truth is you don't.
I remember when I was single, in grad school, and working. I was crazy busy. Then Todd and I planned a wedding and got married and I was crazy busy. Then we had a baby and oh my goodness, was I crazy busy. Then I had another baby, and I started a business, and then I had another baby….
You see where I am going. I was busy in all of those situations, and I am still busy to this day. But when does it end and when do I finally enjoy my everyday life?
I think now is a good time.
Of course there are things you have to do - carpool, take care of a sick child, meet a deadline - but instead of dreading it or thinking about how you shouldn't have to do it, can you be present for it?
Instead of trying to "get through it," can you be there and really be there? Commit yourself to it and put your heart into it instead of thinking about what else you "could" or "should" be doing?
Just be there, because life is happening in that moment. Everybody is rushing around trying to get somewhere, get things done, and check things off the list - but why? Where are they going?
Are they just pushing through everyday so they can get back in bed at night and then start over the next day? What's that all about?
There is no place and time when everything is done or neat or tidy. Everyday there will be something to do and there will be a new list, so it's time to make a choice about now.
Can you let go of some things you don't want to do and know that it is OK?
Can you say "no" and disappoint someone but know that you are still a good person?
Can you go to bed without completing every task and know that it's possible to feel fulfilled and sleep peacefully?
Maybe then you will feel calmer and be calmer. Maybe then you will be friendlier and less chaotic with your partner and your children. They deserve that, don't they?
And don't you deserve to enjoy your life? I think you do.
It's important to realize that life is not being "done" to you - you are always free to choose, that is what "free will" means.
Maybe big things are happening around you; maybe you are afraid or worried. That's even more of a reason to love yourself, to soothe yourself, to choose things that make you feel good. You need to choose these things so you can deal with the things you can't control.
You don't need to chuck all your responsibilities, or blow off your loved ones, or move to the highest mountain and meditate. It is absolutely unnecessary to take it to these extremes.
This is more of an inner experience. A decision to choose what feels good right now - it could be a shift in decision making or a shift in feeling - or maybe both.
Take care of yourself first and you will be amazed at how good you will feel; and ironically, how much you can accomplish.
And if you really feel like you can't do this, maybe you enjoy chaos.
Really, I'm not kidding.
Some people love chaos, they love to have loads of things on their list. They love to feel overwhelmed, overworked, or maybe just "needed."
And if this is true for you, then acknowledge it. It will help you understand yourself better and it will keep you from blaming others for your busy schedule.
Right now is the time of year when we feel most overwhelmed with obligation - holiday expectations, life, work, and family - so this is a prime time for thoughtful choices.
Not to blame or ask others to stop having parties or expectations, but to choose differently about how your moments are spent.
Because life is just a series of moments - one moment after the next creating the story of your life.
What will your next moment be like? You choose.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.